Ross-shire bird of prey deaths: Local farmers say they ‘have nothing to hide’

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Image courtesy of  Terry Pickford

A farmer whose property was raided by police investigating the deaths of red kites and buzzards has called for more resources to be directed at the investigation. Several of the dead birds were found in the vicinity of Ewan Macdonald’s land at Conon Bridge in Ross-shire. Mr Macdonald said he and the local farming community had nothing to hide. He called for an action group to be set up to investigate the killings.

The 14 red kites and six buzzards have were found in an area of about two square miles to the south east of Conon Bridge since 18 March. Toxicology tests have now shown 12 of the birds had been poisoned.

Mr Macdonald’s three farms, including his home, have been searched by police who found nothing incriminating  linking him to the deaths. Officers examined Mr Macdonald’s sheds, barns and even his bedroom.

He said the reputation of the local farming community, which has actively encouraged the reintroduction of red kites in the area, is being tarnished.

Dead red kite
Several of the dead birds had been tagged and ringed

And the prominent farmer called for the formation of an action group made up of landowners, the police and the RSPB to get to the bottom of the killings.

Speaking publicly for the first time, he said: “All of the farmers are very concerned about this because we are worried that our industry again gets its name blackened.

“Hopefully – and I am almost 100% certain – it has nothing to do with the farming industry and I would find it very shocking and very surprising if it was.

“As an industry we are desperate to get to the bottom of this and that is why I want us to get together and see if we can pool resources together.”

Mr Macdonald said the investigation should focus on establishing where the poison is, who had put it there and why it was killing so many birds of prey.

And he said he was puzzled as to why no other animals appeared to have been killed by the poison.

There could be an innocent explanation for the deaths, Mr Macdonald argued, such as a virus or somebody feeding meat to birds of prey which they do not realise had been contaminated.

A protest march over the deaths was held in Inverness last weekend

Pointing out that police have not revealed what poison was responsible for the deaths, he added: “If we knew the poison that would maybe give us some sort of idea what to look for.

“We have nothing to hide but I would like to get round a table with all of the organisations and see if we can put some sort of plan together to get the bottom of this”.

Describing how red kites were a common site over his land, he said: “They hover over the lambing field because they like picking up the remains of the afterbirth of lambs. They do no harm at all to the lambing field whatsoever.

“Our men love seeing them and we are very fond of them. It is only in the last 20 years that the population has built up quite dramatically. We are absolutely devastated by what has happened over the past two or three weeks”.

Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and Scottish Natural Heritage have been involved in investigating the deaths.

A reward of £26,000 has been offered for information which leads to a conviction in the case.

Police have appealed for people to report any suspicious activity, with anyone who finds dead birds or animals in the area asked to note its location and inform police.

But under no circumstances should anyone touch or attempt to recover any dead animal or bird, officers have warned.

1 comment to Ross-shire bird of prey deaths: Local farmers say they ‘have nothing to hide’

  • Anthony

    Unanswered questions:
    1. No other birds reported poisoned. There are thousands of crows and seagulls in the same area. Red Kites are timid feeders. If poisoned bait was being thrown out there would be crows first, then the braver buzzards and finally the more timid kites. There are many buzzards in that area.
    2. Why are they not releasing the name of the poison? They do so quick enough in other instances.
    3. Why was it over two weeks before farms were searched?
    4. Why would the farmers who have their own dogs and let neighbours walk their dogs on their land have poison lying around in fields?
    5. Why do the local vets not know what poison it is so they could treat any pets if they picked it up?
    6. The high number of Kites suggests that something on the feeding station where they frequent was deliberately poisoned OR some contaminated meat was put there inadvertently. Has the meat source been checked as clean?
    Too many questions unanswered.

    Editor’s Comment. Anthony, your comment certainly does raise more questions than answers, What you are saying certainly makes a lot of sense, thank you. If you hear of anything new, please send in a second comment. Editor